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BC Lara’s Great GOAT Debate—Epilogue: priceless national treasures and the eye of the beholder

Brian Lara on song, cricket connoisseurs the world over agree, is an arresting, cathartic spectacle; it belongs, in the words of CLR James, who does not only cricket know, ‘with the theatre, ballet, opera and dance.’

A Brian Lara pull, right knee lifted high and torso swivelling rapidly but gracefully from side-on to chest-on as willow makes meaty contact with leather, transports the spectator into another realm; welcome, welcome, one and all, to the Land of the Larabesque.

A Brian Lara cut perhaps lacks that quality of delicate ultra-lateness attributed to Frank Worrell’s, which often ran the risk, Neville Cardus reported, of being deemed absent; its silky elegance, however, is beyond dispute. Third man’s life is made living hell.

Photo: West Indies and Trinidad and Tobago cricket legend Brian Lara pulls for four against England at the Oval, London on 4 September 2000.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Adrian Dennis)

A Brian Lara drive, straight, through extra-cover or forward of point or through the on-side, is a thing of beauty almost unparalleled in the game. Not a man move!

Millions have seen it and marvelled.

The Brian Lara Drive is a nondescript, unremarkable lane, formerly called Knaggs Hill, which angles off the foot of Lady Chancellor Road and ascends to the Prince’s mansion. It is officialdom’s latest addition to the ever-lengthening list of eponymous BCL monuments.

Many will see it and merely move on.

In the capital city, the Brian Lara Promenade already occupies pride of place. The Brian Lara Academy in Tarouba, scheduled to be completed in time for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, remained shrouded in controversy for a decade until Keith Rowley’s PNM finally rescued it after their election in late 2015.

And the Brian Lara Ground in Santa Cruz remains an eyesore for all those who have the misfortune to live there and a festering sore for those concerned with the development of sport in the Prince of Port-of-Spain’s hometown.

And other structures too bear his name.

Full 25 years have now passed since Lara first claimed the world record with his 375 against England in Antigua. And full 15 since he was forced to reprise his heroics with his 400 at the same venue.

Full 12 years will soon have elapsed since, having failed to convince the WICB to permit him to retain the captain’s mantle in the wake of a disappointing 2007 World Cup in the region, he called time on his international cricketing career.

Photo: Then West Indies captain Brian Lara (left) meets with supporters during a lap of the stadium after facing England in the Super-Eight ICC World Cup match at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados on 21 April 2007.
Lara’s glittering international career ended in a cruel run out and an unfortunate one-wicket defeat in the World Cup Super Eights match against England.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Prakash Singh)

Full 50 years had gone by last Thursday since he first saw the light of day, tenth of Pearl and Bunty’s 11 children.

None of that is new. So why do I bring it up again here?

It’s because Lara’s renown continues, in my considered view, to be an asset, if not wasted, at least underexploited by the local authorities. He has of course been named a Trinidad and Tobago sports ambassador. And we have seen reports of his travelling abroad to represent T&T in some noteworthy forum. But it’s the bunglers in charge who have judged the external sport tourism thrust to be best suited to getting the best returns from the Prince of Port-of-Spain’s talents and accomplishments.

My view is that much of the rest of the cricketing world already knows that T&T has produced one of the game’s greatest ever batsmen if not the Greatest of All Time; they hardly need reminding.

Can we with no fear of successful contradiction honestly say the same of Trinidad and Tobago? Perhaps we need to take a long, hard look within.

“Kids in the WI,” Lara himself has said, “are dreaming to play in the IPL, [where there is] a lot of money.”

And he recently called on Darren Bravo, his cousin—some say his clone—to ensure he optimises his performance and maximises his returns in the Test arena.

Photo: West Indies legend Brian Lara goes on the attack during an exhibition match at the opening of the Brian Lara Cricket Stadium in Tarouba on 12 May 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Before that, on i95.5FM, former WI ace pacer Andy Roberts had taken issue with the practice of spending huge sums on a coach for the Test team. His view is shared by Australia’s 708-Test-scalps leg-spinner Shane Warne, who insists that at international level the critical official is someone genuinely competent to assist players in making the necessary psychological adjustments to the highest arena; below that, he concurs, is where competent coaches are needed.

I agree 100 percent. I am not, however, recommending that we give BCL the job of national coach. Or national schools coach.

What I am recommending is that we use the Prince’s fame and unmatched exploits to steer the gaze of young players back towards the longest format of the game and inspire them to aspire to play Test cricket for WI.

And I don’t think simply organising an ongoing lecture tour of the nation’s primary and secondary schools would fit the bill.

Australia’s Don Bradman, “Unquestionably the greatest batsman to grace the game,” says espncricinfo, played his last Test in 1948, full 16 years before Mark Taylor was born. Yet in 1998, Taylor declared Australia’s innings closed with his personal overnight score on 334, just 41 short of Lara’s world record.

For him, he later explained, overhauling Bradman’s highest score would constitute a kind of sacrilege.

Photo: West Indies cricket star Brian Lara sweeps for four runs against Australia at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad on 20 April, 2003.
Behind stumps are Australian wicket keeper Adam Gilchrist (left) and Mathew Hayden.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Robert Taylor)

So I hear Explainer lamenting that we ‘shouldn’t treat our heroes so.’ And how, I ask, do we treat our sporting heroes? Have we encouraged our youngsters to revere Hasely Crawford and Ato Boldon and Keshorn Walcott and Dwight Yorke? And Lara?

And I hear Rootsman when he pleads in his stirring tribute for ‘a statue on the Promenade.’

But monumental feats do not mean we have to continue to construct concrete monuments to Rootsman’s ‘living legend.’

In his birthday week, Lara opted to plan and stage a number of sporting events, presumably at his own expense. Will the powers-that-be take the hint? Achievements like Lara’s and Crawford’s and Boldon’s and Walcott’s and Yorke’s never lose their potential for inspiration. That potential, however, will never be fully exploited unless and until we contrive to find creative ways to remind our young ones over and over again and ad infinitum of their true meaning. And the stories behind them.

Official ig-NOR-ance—to use a Trini word—is certainly no help.

Merely adding a new street sign with Brian Lara’s name on it to mark his 50th birthday, 25 years of his capture of the world record and 15 of its recapture bespeaks the bankruptcy that bedevils officialdom in T&T. It’s no surprise that sport continues to limp along chirrip-chirrip.

Photo: West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara on the go.

Nary a mass media reminder, as far as I am aware, to the general public that there is an occasion worth celebrating? Nary an electronic media ad acknowledging the achievement(s)?

Nary a minute set aside on national TV between April 12 and April 18 to remind the many millennials, whose picture-making mechanism most likely does not function optimally, of the aesthetic quality of the Prince’s art, his numerous masterpieces?

The beauty of art, we’ve all heard, is the concealment of art. That clearly does not mean that an original by a world-famous master should properly be hung in a virtually inaccessible cellar.

But is that not akin, Madam Minister, to what we continually do, blessed as we are with the ownership of a Rembriandt?

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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